British Gas is setting up a data science team to uncover business efficiency insights from data stored in the company's Hadoop data lake.
Phil Crannage, head of applications development at British Gas, explained in an interview with V3 that the team of data scientists will help less technical-minded workers to make sense of the data stored in British Gas's open source Hadoop system.
"We're setting up a data science team to assist our business users so they can fish in the lake themselves," he said.
Crannage explained that British Gas aims to use data analytics to drive efficiency in its business operations and ensure that customer service is delivered in a satisfactory way without escalating costs.
"A lot of our analytics are driving us to look at how best we can give the customers what they want as cheaply as possible," he said.
"It's about improving customer services. Do we have the right agents in the right place to serve our customers? How do our customers want to be served? What kind of products and services are they interested in buying?
"It's all about giving the customer what they want and making sure our people are in the right place to give them what they want."
Achieving this goal of improved customer service involves using data analysis to look beyond customer-facing activity and ensure that British Gas is operating efficiently internally as well as externally.
"A lot of what we do is about efficiency, streamlining our business, making sure we can serve the customer in the most efficient way and ultimately keeping costs down so our prices can be as low as possible," he said.
"We have a lot more strings to our business. The smart meter rollout, for instance, means making sure the engineers are in the right place at the right time with the right stock to do the installations, so that the customer can have the appointment when they want it."
Efficiency may be the goal of British Gas's approach to analytics and its plans to establish a data scientist team to further this objective, but it does not mean that the company will stifle innovation.
British Gas is using analytics to generate innovative ideas that keep costs down, as the company wants to offer low prices without cutting profits.
"We were founded on 30 April 1812 [as the Gas Light and Coke Company]. A lot of companies that have been around for a long time have started to fail, and the reason we won't fail is we are pushing the boundaries and innovating, but we need permission to innovate so we need to keep our core business costs down," he concluded.
Keeping costs down also frees up money for British Gas to explore the use of technology in areas such as smart homes, where it uses Amazon Web Services' cloud platform to power its Hive remote heating service.
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